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An Interview with Jayne Thickett – winner of the Hysteria 2012 Short Story Competition

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jayne Thickett – the winner of the Hysteria 2012 Short Story Competition. You can read her story, called “Banana Loaf: A Recipe for Solace” on the website. It will also be published in the Hysteria 2012 Anthology, due out in February, alongside nine other exceptional writers and ten fabulous poets.

What is the one thing no one would usually know about you?

Only a handful of people know I write, and probably less know I have been writing a novel for quite some time now. It’s not that I lack confidence in my writing; it just isn’t something that comes up in conversation.

Are the names of your characters important to you?

Absolutely. They all have to have a name before the story even begins. I think the name should reflect who they are in some way. I rarely change a character’s name once I’ve chosen it.

Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?

If I get one of those rare moments where the story is screaming to be told, I get a stiff neck and shoulders from hunching over the laptop without coming up for a breath. My wrists hurt a lot these days. Also, the ironing doesn’t get done very often.

Have you ever wished you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?

I wish I could sing. I love to sing, but I’m completely tone-deaf. I don’t know that I want to do it instead of writing because I could never see myself not writing, but I do wish I could hold a tune at the very least.

Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?

Well, I’m an aspiring writer myself, but I’ve managed to have a few small pieces published both online and in print and also placed in several competitions and that is down to the fact that I put my writing out there. I joined an online writing community, scribophile.com, as there are no writers’ groups local to me, and it has been invaluable and has taught me so much. Don’t be afraid to send it out. Be open to constructive criticism. And read. I think it was Stephen King who said: if you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.

What has been the best experience you have had in your life?

That would have to be horse riding in the Spanish Mountains with my son and partner. I’d never been on a horse up to that point. My son hated to try anything new. And we did it. I’ll never forget the way the light fell over the hills, or the sounds of horses’ hooves, or the feel of the horse. The look of absolute amazement on my son’s face was priceless. The close encounter with an enormous praying mantis at the barbecue afterwards couldn’t even spoil the experience!

What is the book you wished you had written?

I read a lot, so I often come across something and think why didn’t I come up with that? But I think one book which actually made me feel sad that it had been done and I hadn’t been the one to do it is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Sure, there are plenty of variations on this tale out there but I like how Atwood turns what could simply be a feminist pamphlet into a study of the human condition, making it a widely accessible text. It doesn’t preach. Also, probably anything by Alice Hoffman.

What is your favourite TV moment of all time?

I’m a huge fan of Lost, and I still pine for it almost three years since the finale. My favourite TV moment, therefore, is a dishevelled Jack watching Kate drive away from him and him yelling, “We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!” That probably only works if you’ve watched the entire six seasons and were a bit obsessed.

Tea, coffee, water, juice, wine or beer … which do you prefer when writing?

Coffee. It keeps me awake. Not that my writing is that boring, but I tend to write late at night. Sometimes beer loosens the old creativity wheel, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it!

Are there any habits you wish you didn’t have?

Coffee. I get murderous if I go too long without a cup. Grinding my teeth. A lifelong habit which has got worse lately, to the point where I recently strained my jaw muscles. Writing too much dialogue. Sometimes my first draft looks like a script.

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